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Rays drop reliever to make room for Jeremy Hellickson

WILL VRAGOVIC   |   TIMES
Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (46) strikes out Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles (4) to end the top of the eighth inning during the Cleveland Indians against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, May 10, 2014.

WILL VRAGOVIC | TIMES Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (46) strikes out Cleveland Indians third baseman Mike Aviles (4) to end the top of the eighth inning during the Cleveland Indians against the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, May 10, 2014.

ST. PETERSBURG — When the Rays had to make a roster move to add RHP Jeremy Hellickson back to the rotation, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo was the somewhat surprising odd man out.

The Rays designated the 32-year-old reliever for assignment before Saturday's 3-0 win against the Red Sox to open up a spot for Hellickson, who was recalled from Class A Charlotte and started the game. They have 10 days to trade Oviedo or place him on waivers.

"It was not an easy choice, actually," manager Joe Maddon said. "But one thing we do have is bullpen arms, whether it's here or in the minor leagues. Just looking at the whole thing and trying to evaluate what you have and what you look like going forward, it was (Oviedo)."

After missing last season to recover from Tommy John elbow-ligament surgery, Oviedo had a 3.69 ERA in 32 appearances this year. He had given up six runs over his past 32/3 innings and surrendered at least one run in eight of his past 17 outings.

Maddon said the former Marlins closer should get an opportunity elsewhere because his stuff is still strong, though his command hasn't always been sharp.

"There's nothing wrong for him at all, except he needs more opportunities," Maddon said.

The move keeps LHP Erik Bedard in the bullpen.

Bedard lost his spot in the rotation when Hellickson made his season debut with the Rays this month. Bedard has pitched only once since, a scoreless ninth inning July 12 against Toronto.

Bedard gives the Rays flexibility as a long reliever or as an emergency starter in case of an injury or a trade. Maddon said that role is important but not easy. "Very difficult, very difficult," he said. "(Bedard) has been put in a very difficult position. He's handled it about as well as it can possibly be handled."

Hellickson's return: Hellickson was disappointed after lasting only one more out than he did in his 2014 debut this month. He gave up five hits and had five strikeouts but in 42/3 innings.

"He threw the ball really well," Maddon said.

Maddon pulled Hellickson in the fifth because he was facing DH David Ortiz, who blasted a double to right in his first at-bat.

Hellickson said his stuff was strong, although his command wasn't quite as sharp as he had hoped it would be after the All-Star break and the Rays' extra off days let him make two starts in the minors. He left feeling better about his stamina, though, after tiring later into games earlier this season.

"I've just got to be more efficient and go deeper in the game," Hellickson said.

MEDICAL MATTERS: RHP Joel Peralta (illness) pitched one scoreless inning with one hit and one strikeout in a rehab appearance Saturday night in Dunedin for Charlotte. He was expected to rejoin the Rays on Monday.

Bullpen Bits: RHP Grant Balfour earned the victory, with Maddon saying he looked like he did during the Rays' 2008 season. It was Balfour's first win since Sept. 17, 2013, and his first with the Rays since September 2010.

LHP Jake McGee made his AL-leading 51st appearance and earned his 11th save.

RHP Brad Boxberger had his 12th consecutive scoreless appearance.

MISCELLANY: Ben Zobrist's solo home run was his eighth of the year. … Saturday was the four-year anniversary of Matt Garza's no-hitter, the only one in Rays history. … St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Gators/Bucs defensive lineman Brad Culpepper threw out ceremonial first pitches. … LHP Matt Moore and C Ryan Hanigan will sign autographs for children from 12:30-1 p.m. today.

Rays drop reliever to make room for Jeremy Hellickson 07/26/14 [Last modified: Saturday, July 26, 2014 11:59pm]
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